Understanding the B2B Sales Process
If you run a business that sells to other companies, you must approach sales and marketing differently. B2B marketing timelines and sales cycles are very different from consumer sales.
The B2B buyer’s journey is much longer and involves more people in the decision process. Add to this the fact that most B2B buyers are not spending their own money but buying on behalf of a company.
B2B marketing must balance building brand awareness and targeting specific people to convert them into leads.
Once a person is aware of your business and has some interest in your products and services, you enter the B2B sales cycle.
Here are the seven steps that each B2B customer or client will go through to buy from your business.
This first phase in the B2B sales process is when both parties have a chance to qualify each other. You must feel that the person interested in working with your business is someone you can potentially help.
Not every single business will be a good prospect for your B2B services. You must find a match between what you offer and what their needs are. If you initially feel that there is a potential match, then you move into understanding their needs.
In the conventional sales world, needs assessment helps you to understand a prospect’s pain or problem. Very often, people go looking for a solution only when they realize something is going wrong. In the B2B world, very often, there is a need to improve something in their business. Knowing what is missing for your B2B prospect is crucial to finding the right solution.
How do you separate yourself from your competitors in the modern B2B marketplace? Very simple, you offer education and insights into how you can solve your customer or client’s problems.
Today, B2B buyers are much educated about their options even before they contact you. Why is this? Because if they are buying on behalf of a company, they’ve likely spent several hours researching solutions and potential B2B vendors.
For this reason, you must offer insider information to prospective B2B buyers. This process might include a custom demo or even doing some basic consulting work for their company as part of the sales process.
Education today is basically free, but specialized knowledge is not. As a B2B solution provider, you must demonstrate to your clients or customers how your expertise will help them.
Perhaps the most significant step in the B2B sales cycle is the offering of custom solutions. Each business you sell to needs to feel that you can offer them a custom solution, rather than something they can buy off the shelf.
Generally speaking, the more time you spend customizing a solution for your customers, the more trust they will have in your business.
Custom solutions will encourage customers to stay with your business over the long-term. Spending the time to make adjustments to your offerings that uniquely match their needs or B2B prospects is needed if you want to win the sale.
Only after you have spent time qualifying, understanding needs, educating, and then customizing a solution can you put together a proper proposal for your prospects.
A proposal is a clear explanation of the custom solution you offer and the buyer’s investment. It is the most logical part of the buying process and helps the B2B purchaser share the offering with their team and their decision-makers.
Remember that once you put together a proposal, you must still pitch it to the team who is buying. If you leave it up to someone inside the company, it is very likely the deal will fall through.
Creating a contract between the two businesses means that everything is clearly planned. There is no room for misinterpreting what is offered when it will be implemented or when payment must be completed. Often in B2B sales, the contract saves a lot of misunderstanding or crucial details from being missed. Take the time to create a clear agreement that can keep all involved parties on the same page.
The final stage of the sales cycle might seem to be signing the contract. But in fact, the final stage is delivering the product and implementing the solutions for your new client.
By treating the implementation as part of the sales process, you keep a sharp focus on meeting your new customer’s needs. Many businesses can feel like their investment of money has been wasted if they don’t have proper support and follow-up.
The implementation phase helps to solidify the relationship at the end of the B2B sales cycle. But it’s also the start of the referral phase. You are more likely to get high-quality leads for new business from customers who you serve well.
Sharing Your Buyer’s Journey
Remember that purchasing on behalf of a company is part of a person’s job. It doesn’t have the same level of excitement that personal buying experiences tend to cause.
You must join your B2B buyer on the journey from prospect to a satisfied customer and help them to feel supported along the way. Doing this builds both trust and longevity into the business relationship.